≡ Menu

Washington Times Letter: Refuting a Protectionist Assertion about Comparative Advantage

In the March 11th, 2004, edition of the Washington Times I did my best to correct William Hawkins’s mistaken description of the economics of international trade:

William R. Hawkins claims that the typical economist is so benighted by old-fashioned theories that he or she is unaware that comparative advantage changes over time and that “multiple nations can have a comparative advantage in the same field” (“World trade realities,” Commentary, Tuesday). Mr. Hawkins then blusters into battle against his idiot straw man.

I challenge Mr. Hawkins to identify a single professional economist who has argued that comparative advantage does not change and ought not change over time, and that multiple nations cannot have a comparative advantage in the same field.

Straw men are easily slain; the principle of comparative advantage, properly understood, is not.

Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University


Protectionists are mighty and adept slayers of straw men.  In waging such battles, protectionists have much experience.  In doing battle with the actual economic and ethical cases for a policy of free trade, however, protectionists fare far worse.